Formula One asks: German fans gone, hit Sebastian Vettel anti-F1 diatribe, Michael Schumacher tragedy

Jul 21 2014, 16:07 IST
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SummaryThe glamour sport was asking itself that question after tens of thousands stayed away from a home Formula One grand prix...

Where have all the German Formula One fans gone?

The glamour sport was asking itself that question after tens of thousands stayed away from a home Formula One grand prix that should have been box office gold in the land of Mercedes but instead left plenty of empty seats on Sunday.

Some pointed the finger at the country's reigning quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel, struggling for form at a below-par Red Bull this season and unhappy with the new rules and engine format.

Others blamed World Cup fatigue, Germany's strict tax rules on corporate hospitality or the absence of Michael Schumacher - the most successful driver of all time who retired in 2012 and is still in hospital after a near-fatal ski accident.

Whatever the reason, the facts on Sunday were stark.

The dominant Mercedes team, with championship leader Nico Rosberg triumphant, had just won their home grand prix with a German driver for the first time since the 1930s.

Such a result had looked on the cards for months - Mercedes have now won nine of 10 races so far - and yet instead of queues of cars on the autobahns and crowds thronging through the turnstiles, the race at Hockenheim drew an attendance of just 52,000 on Sunday.

In total, 95,000 turned up over the three days - a small crowd in one of the world's largest car exporting nations and home of sporting marques like Porsche, BMW and Audi.

The Sunday figure represented a 38 percent drop on the previous race at the circuit two years ago, when seven times champion Schumacher was in the last season of his comeback with a then-uncompetitive Mercedes team.

When Schumacher - the first German world champion and a four times winner in Hockenheim - announced his comeback with Mercedes in 2010, the circuit sold 10,000 tickets straight away.

QUIET ENGINES

Katja Heim, the circuit adviser who was involved in the race promotion, said the crowd was better than the 45,000 at the Nuerburgring last year but Hockenheim was always more popular.

She blamed Vettel, and the return of the Red Bull-owned Austrian circuit which hosted its first race in 11 years in June, in part for some of the empty seats.

Vettel told reporters early in the season that the new V6 turbo hybrid engines, which are much quieter than the old V8s, sounded 'shit'. He was not the only one of that opinion, but his words had resonance.

"It certainly didn't really help

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